Amidst the shocking betrayal of EVIL on Los Ingobernables de Japon following his New Japan Cup victory over Kazuchika Okada, to EVIL’s crowning as new IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Champion at NJPW Dominion the following night, another shocking moment this past weekend was the return of Japanese legend Dick Togo to NJPW, where the former Michinoku Pro (MPW) and Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) Pro star joined Bullet Club as the new mentor for EVIL. It was Togo’s first appearance back in NJPW since a Young Lion’s event in 2017 and the first major appearance in New Japan since 2011.
Dick Togo began wrestling in 1991 after training with Gran Hamada, debuting as Sakigake Gantetsu for Hamada’s Universal Pro Wrestling in November in a Global Wrestling Federation (GWF) Light Heavyweight title match against champion The Lightning Kid (aka Sean Waltman, X-Pac). The following year, he would begin competing regularly in Mexico with the Universal Wrestling Association (UWA) and debuting with Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL) in 1993. That same year he would make his debut with Japan’s Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling (FMW) and begin a 27-year career with Michinoku Pro. Now competing as SATO, he would make his New Japan debut in 1994 in multi-man tag matches during the 1994 Best of the Super Juniors, where he tagged with fellow Michinoku stars Shiryu (who would find success in the US as Kaz Hayashi in WCW), TAKA Michinoku, Terry Boy, and The Great Sasuke. Soon after their return from New Japan, SATO, Shiryu, and Terry Boy would form the first incarnation of Kaientai.
In 1996, Kaientai reformed as Kaientai DX, with original members SATO (now calling himself Dick Togo), Shiryu, and Terry Boy (now going by MEN’s Teioh) being joined by TAKA Michinoku, Shoichi Funaki, Hanzo Nakajima, Super Boy, Yoshihiro Tajiri, and Gran Hamada to expand the faction. In 1996, the stable would begin working in BATTLARTS as well, and in 1997, they expanded their reach even more, appearing in NJPW and in the US with Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). In 1996, Togo would win his first major singles title in Japan, capturing the MPW British Commonwealth Junior Heavyweight Championship (he would lose it to Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger 42 days later at a New Japan event).
Following the success of former Kaientai DX member TAKA Michinoku in the WWF in 1997, that saw Michinoku become the new WWF Light Heavyweight Champion that December, WWF imported three more members of the unit, Togo, MEN’s Teioh, and Sho Funaki, to reboot Kaientai in the WWF. The unit debuted the spring of 1998, with Yasuke “Wally” Yamaguchi as their manager (he could speak fluent English), called Yamaguchi-San. Yamaguchi was already a well-known figure to Japanese fans, as he had previously worked as a booker and referee for FMW, MPW, and Universal Lucha Libre. By the summer, they had even recruited TAKA Michinoku back to the group in WWF, and were involved in a famous angle with WWF Superstar Val Venis. Kaientai’s run in WWF ended that fall, however, and while Togo would remain with the company until early 1999 working singles matches, he would return to Japan for good that April. Surprisingly, it wasn’t back to MPW, but instead heading to Super Deflin‘s Osaka Pro Wrestling.
By 2001, he made his return to MPW and made his debut with DDT Pro. In 2002, he would briefly return to the US for a run in the US indies during the explosive beginning of the indie revolution, working for Ring of Honor and Major League Wrestling (MLW). In 2002, he would win his second singles title in MPW, the MPW Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Championship, and head to Pro Wrestling ZERO1 with Ikuto Hidaka to win the NWA International Lightweight Tag Team titles. He would work with ZERO1 sporadically for years after, winning the ZERO1 International Junior Heavyweight Championship in 2007.
Dick Togo also see his stock continue to rise in DDT Pro and in 2005 he won his first KO-D Openweight Championship, the company’s top singles title. He would go on to become a 3x KO-D Openweight Champion, as well as a 4x DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Champion and 2x KO-D Tag Team Champion. Throughout the 2000s, he would primarily call DDT Pro his home company, but he would frequently work with other promotions for short stints, such as NJPW, Kaientai Dojo, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW).
In 2011 he would return to the US to represent Team Michinoku Pro (alongside The Great Sasuke and Jinsei Shinzaki, formerly Hakushi in WWF) in CHIKARA‘s King of Trios tournament. They were knocked out in the semi-finals by Team FIST‘s Chuck Taylor, Johnny Gargano, and Icarus. That June, he announced his retirement and began a year-long global farewell tour that took him around Japan and Mexico, as well as his appearance for CHIKARA. His final match was with Lucha Libre con Altura Bolivia (LLA) in La Paz, Bolivia, in September of 2012.
But retirement didn’t last long for Dick Togo. In July of 2016, he unretired and returned to DDT Pro, and was soon back with MPW as well. He also returned to the US for a short stint with EVOLVE Wrestling, where he faced Chris Hero at EVOLVE 74 and Ethan Page at EVOLVE 75. His comeback has primarily been with MPW, but he’s continued to work with DDT Pro, Big Japan Wrestling (BJW), and others, including Stardom in 2019 (25 years after he worked for another major Joshi promotion in All Japan Women’s Wrestling (AJW) in 1994). In January of 2020, he made the finals of the NOAH Global Junior League, losing to Daisuke Harada in the finals. Prior to his New Japan return at Dominion, he last wrestled on the fourth of July for MPW at Michinoku Pro Dojo Pro-Wrestling, where he and Yasutaka Oosera (he was born the year after Togo began wrestling) were victorious in tag team action against Koji Kawamura & MUSASHI.
Just a month away from his 51st birthday, Dick Togo is still a master storyteller in the ring – much like other quinquagenarian wrestlers in Japan like Minoru Suzuki (52), Yuji Nagata (52), Great Sasuke (50), and the recently retired Jushin Liger (55), Togo has maintained a high degree of competition well past the age than many wrestlers retire elsewhere around the world. Whether he’ll be returning to the ring for New Japan and remain solely in a managerial position is still unknown, but chances are he’ll continue to wrestle in Japan somewhere until that day finally comes where Dick Togo will ride off into the sunset once again for good.
— Bui Club (@BuiClub) July 12, 2020